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1001 Stories Collection

The Sleeping King

1001 The Sleeping King Matteo Di Iorio
Added on 08th July 2020

Oral tradition A Welsh folktale

UK and Ireland Myths and legends
1001 , Audio , Text

A story of the king sleeping under a hill, ready to wake at time of need.


When he cuts a stick from a hazel tree, a man finds his way into a cave beneath a hill. In the entrance is a bell and the cave itself is full of sleeping warriors surrounding a sleeping king. When the bell rings to signal a time of terrible danger the warriors will wake.

Why we chose it

The story was one of The Story Museum’s original audio story collection. The Sleeping King is part of the King Arthur legend.

Where it came from

Wales has a strong tradition of stories about King Arthur. A story from North Wales tells of a shepherd boy searching for lost sheep who cuts a stick from a hazel tree. He meets an old man who asks to be taken to where he found it and they find their way into a cave where knights in armour are sleeping.

Where it went next

A number of caves in Wales claim to be where Arthur is sleeping, including Craig y Ddinas in the Brecon Beacons, a hill of sheer limestone with an Iron Age hillfort.

The story of the king sleeping under the hill has captured the imagination of storytellers. Kevin Crossley Holland tells his version, The Slumber King, in his collection of British and Irish folk stories, Between Worlds

Associated stories

There are many stories about sleeping heroes. In a story from Switzerland The Three Tells sleep in a cave in the mountains and will awake and defend the country if the need arises. They too are visited by a lost shepherd but do not wake because the time has not come. In English stories from Richmond Castle and Freebrough Hill Arthur and his knights lie sleeping in caves with a horn and a sword to wake them. Another English story from Alderley Edge tells of a man with a horse to sell who is taken by a stranger underground to a cave where men and horses are sleeping. His horse is needed to complete the troop. Alan Garner’s novel The Weirdstone of Brisingamen is based on this story. Not only is Arthur sleeping in Wales but other stories tell of Owain Glyndowr the last Prince of Wales waiting to wake and fight for his country again.

Added on 08th July 2020

Oral tradition A Welsh folktale

UK and Ireland Myths and legends
1001 , Audio , Text

Story Resources

  • The Sleeping King story text PDF (262.346 KB)